Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bike Lane Markings in the Wild

Newton isn't New York, but sometimes a bike lane is a bike lane.


Great-looking resource

The big E rocks! (Son of NS&S calls the interwebs the big E because of the rotating IE "e" on his school computer.)

Found this site this morning looking for information about bike path designations.

Leads to a question: why aren't all bike/pedestrian/&c. resources collected on wikipedia or in a specialized wiki?


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Happy Story

I was tangentially involved in a very unhappy bicycle v. motorist story last week. Today, I was directly involved in a very happy one.

My tire went soft five miles into my twenty-mile commute (Newton to Marlborough). I tried to fill it using my handy-dandy CO2 tool, but failed miserably. (Pilot error, it's safe to assume.)

So I started walking, unsuccessfully ringing a few doorbells where it looked possible that the residents might have a pump. I should note that I was on Rte 20 in Weston, which is moderately busy and not densely populated.

Then, I started hitchhiking.

It took a while, but a middle-aged couple in an SUV picked me up. He was taking her to work. At that point, I had a few different plans, one of which was to get to an REI about five miles away in Natick. When they asked me where I was headed, I said I'd like to get to REI.

The man said he'd be happy to take me there. It was clear that REI was out of the way and that the woman's work was not on the direct path to REI. She volunteered that he should head directly to REI, she'd get off along the way, and walk a bit to work.

He did, she did, and he drove me right up to the REI door.

It was 9:00 and the store opens at 10:00.

I knocked on a window. A nice young man opened the door. When I told him I needed a pump, he returned in two minutes with the shop pump.

I changed the tube. Pumped it up. And, got on my way.

A long morning, but a very pleasant experience.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Daniel/Jackson Intersection Redesign Financing Approved

On November 13, 2006, the Finance Committee of the Board of Alderman approved item #289-03(5), authorizing appropriation of $25,000 from the Bradford Development Traffic Mitigation Fund for the purpose of installing the curb line changes proposed in item #289-03(4).

Minutes of the November 13, 2006, Finance Committee Meeting (PDF).

Daniel/Jackson Street Intersection wiki page.


Idiotic Parking Ordinance

It's after three o'clock in the morning, and I just got back in from moving my car from the street to the driveway.

I went out into a 67 degree rain to move the car so as not to risk a ticket for violating the winter (November 1 to April 30) ban on overnight on-street parking (Sec. 19-174(b)). The purpose of the rule is to ensure that streets are clear in the event of an overnight snow.

It's 67 degrees out. I can state with moral certainty that it is not going to snow tonight and that it has been clear that there was absolutely no chance of snow tonight for probably a week, but at least since this morning.

So why isn't the overnight ban lifted?

It would be oh-so-easy to put a small bricklet on the city home page that, on nights like these, says "Overnight Parking Ban Lifted." On most nights between October and May there is no risk of snow. Not a small risk. Not a modest risk. No risk whatsoever.

Given 21st Century meteoroligical technology, we can identify those nights with great accuracy. When he knows there isn't even a remote chance of snow, the Commissioner of Public Works ought to be able to lift the ban and let the townsfolk know on the city home page.

If there's even a slight chance of snow, don't lift the ban. We'd still probably get more than 50% of our nights back.

I recognize that advocating for parking is inconsistent with orthodox better-neighborhood traffic policy. It's after three o'clock in the morning. I'll try to resolve the inconsistency another day.

Sixty-seven degrees out and I had to move my car to keep the street clear in case they need to plow.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Protecting bikers

At a meeting of the Public Facilities Committee last week, Aldercritter Gentile expressed concern that putting bike lane markings on roadways would give bicyclists a false sense of confidence that motorists would pay them mind.

His comments highlight the need for the city to do more -- much more -- to raise awareness of the right of bikers to the road and the responsibility of motorists to respect that right.

Let him know how you feel. Visit his profile page for contact information.


Daniel/Jackson Intersection Redesign Approved

On November 8, 2006, the Public Facilities Committee of the Board of Alderman approved plans submitted by Commmissioner Rooney to move the north curb line of the Jackson/Daniel Street intersection, pending navigation of the trial changes to the intersection by a Newton Fire Department ladder truck.

Next steps: Approval by the Finance Committee and then the full board.

The Daniel/Jackson Street Intersection page.


Traffic Calming Trial

The proposed redesign of the Daniel/Jackson Street Intersection is underway.

Check it out.

Send feedback to

The Daniel/Jackson Street Intersection page.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Welcome to Newton Streets and Sidewalks.

The intent of this weblog is to keep an eye on issues that matter to those of us who care about the condition of Newton's neighborhoods, particularly as they relate to making it safe, easy, and fun to walk and ride bikes.

Since the focus of the blog is Newton, there will be posts about specific problems and opportunities in Newton. What's going on -- in City Hall and elsewhere -- to reduce the negative impact of traffic in your neighborhood.

There will also be more general posts. What's happening in other cities -- nearby and around the world -- to deal with issues similar to what we face in Newton.

While a blog has its virtues, it's a lousy host for reference material. So NS&S has a companion wiki: On the wiki we will collect detailed information about problem areas in Newton. For each of these problem areas, we hope to provide a description of the problem, proposed solutions, photos, diagrams, a history of activity, status of improvement efforts, and, we hope, a description of an installed solution.

In short, we'll use the blog to post brief updates and the wiki to provide the broader picture.

The blog and the wiki grow out of an assumption that there are many of us that care about the same sets of issues -- calming traffic, making biking safer, making things more pedestrian-friendly -- but that we are dealing with these issues by addressing specific problems in our neighborhoods. We'll have more success with our local problems if we foster a community of like-minded people, recognize that our neighborhood problems are part of a larger context, and convince the city that dealing with these problems comprehensively will make Newton a much nicer city.

Please contact Sean Roche (sean[dot]roche[at] with tips, news, updates, &c.